Pain Scale

The pain scale is often used by medical professionals to ask you to rate your pain. But have you ever seen one?

The picture to the right conveys the ratings of pain and has associated faces to mimic how you feel. The faces are often used with children and teens, as they have difficulty assigning numbers to pain.

In relation to migraine headache symptoms this is one of the first things I will ask a patient when then present to our office with an active headache. At times, the patient will tell me "Oh I am at a 10/10 right now!" and yet they are sitting in the exam chair quite comfortable. This is not a 10/10! Just so you are aware..the following can be considered severe 10/10 pain:

  • Labor and childbirth
  • Kidney stones
  • Fractures
  • Peritonitis (infection of the tissues lining the abdomen)

So you can see when looking at the pain scale, while occasionally you may actually have a 9-10/10 level headache, most of the time they are lower than that. It does amaze me at times how headache patients can function while in pain..many people go to work, clean the house and do daily activities all while having pain that is about a 5-6/10!

By the time you get to a 6/10, you are most likely irritable and uncomfortable. As pain rises, it can provoke nausea and vomiting. Pain is also part of invisible chronic illness, which means you "look" ok and many other people may not understand what you are going through.

Pain is a complex system wherein the body sends signals through the spinal cord to the brain. The brain registers an abnormality and tells you where the pain is, and how severe it is. Opioid medications are (over)utilized in the United States because they block those signals going to the brain. The pain is still there, you just can't perceive it anymore. That is one of the problems iwht drugs such as hydrocodone or oxycontin. They are good for temporary treatment of acute conditions, but not chronic pain. The real problem of what is causing the pain is not solved. Plus, the chronic use leads to dependency on the drugs.

So the next time your provider asks you how you are feeling, remember the pain scale above and respond appropriately..this helps your provider direct your care.

Read about different types of headaches and how headaches and neck pain go together.

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